Aging occurs when the body is unable to heal itself faster than it breaks down. If that’s the case, why would I remotely be interested in participating in roller derby? It sometimes hurts. The rules are difficult to understand. My body does not immediately respond to my mind’s requests and vice versa.
So is life.
Raise your hand if you have ever thought about your own aging and mortality. As I entered my thirties, I would think about this idea and, with growing frequency, reflect on the question “What will be my legacy?” Would it be fulfilling the stereotypical ideals of an “American Dream?” Achieving ultimate academic, financial and career benchmarks? Or was I destined to never fit in to a particular group?
I was stuck in my own head.
So about a year ago, when I heard that I could participate in Atlanta Men’s Roller Derby, something clicked. I think what clicked is this - I can accept the notion of “aging” by separating it from “regret.” And what followed were flow, resilience and connection on a higher level.
Admittedly there is a tremendous amount of privilege in writing that I learned these things from derby. But because of the transferability of these higher level experiences, Bronnie Ware’s Top 5 Regrets of the Dying resonates. Here’s what she finds and how derby gets me unstuck:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Derby, amongst other things, is teaching me how to live a life that is inside-out vs one that is outside-in. There seems to be more comfort from the authenticity that comes from living in the former.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Finding something in which you’re passionate transcends work and play. I don’t have to sacrifice much time when my energy is in flow.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Gratitude. Respect. Positivity. These are all part of the Resurgents’ mentality. One of the best parts of practice is hearing everyone reflect on what we did well.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
The camaraderie is real. I am surrounded by people who want me to succeed. I want them to succeed. I belong to something greater than myself. Also read my teammate’s (The Gooch’s) article entitled First Practice Nerves.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
My internal locus of control is expanding in healthy ways. Even donning a derby name allows me to apply ostensibly larger than life attributes into “real life.”
So does wisdom really come with age?
I don’t know. I’m not THAT old.
I just know that because of derby, I wear a mouth guard and elbow pads. For the rest of it, my slow processes of reconciliation between having no boundaries and knowing my limits, between individualism and collectivism, and between work and play continue.
Derby is not for everyone and may not always be for me. Perhaps I may never officially skate a jam for AMRD. But at every practice, I see my teammates unconditionally supporting each other. Someone uses his time to develop the pivot and plow stops in us newbies. Someone stops her workout to adjust my trucks. So for today, it’s the perfect thing for me. I can only hope that we all find that.
Forever young, Manila Ice